Report finds organics climbing slightly in the third quarter, with sales increasing 2 per cent and volume up 1.9 per cent

Mixed berries in a bowl Adobe

US organic fresh produce grew slightly in year-over-year sales and volume in the third quarter of 2023, according to the Q3 2023 Organic Produce Performance Report issued by Organic Produce Network and Category Partners.

Overall, organic fresh produce dollar sales and volume increased by 2 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively for the third quarter, compared to the same period last year, with sales for the quarter topping US$2.44bn and volume movement at 733m lbs.

Conventional produce dollar sales and volume showed similar year-over-year gains, with sales up 2.4 per cent and a volume increase of 1.8 per cent.

In a period of continued inflationary pressure, price increases in each segment were considerably less compared to the past two years, the report noted.

Conventional produce average price per pound grew by 0.6 per cent compared to the third quarter of 2022, while organic pricing per pound rose by just 0.1 per cent.

Overall, the average price per pound for the total produce department increased by only 1 cent compared to the same period last year.

“The growth in organic produce volume slightly outpacing conventional produce reflects the continued consumer interest in healthier and sustainable food choices, reaffirming the vitality of the organic industry in today’s market,” said Tom Barnes, CEO of Category Partners.

“It’s also heartening to see organics making a comeback after grappling with inflationary pressures in recent years.”

In the third quarter of this year, 15 of the top 20 organic fresh produce categories posted increases in dollar sales compared to the same period last year.

The organic berry category (which includes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) led overall dollar sales with US$461m for the quarter, representing a year-over-year increase of 6.9 per cent.

Organic broccoli saw the largest sales jump, up 14 per cent from the same period last year. The second-largest dollar category – packaged salads – experienced a decline of 5.4 per cent in sales to US$362m.

Volume gains for the quarter were seen in 12 of the top 20 categories, including double-digit growth for broccoli and watermelon.

Organic celery posted the largest decline in volume (down 21 per cent), followed by peaches (down 16 per cent) and packaged salads (down 6.4 per cent). Bananas continued to remain the largest volume category.